I really and truly do believe that films have the power and ability to change the world in which we live. Would The SNP be ruling Scotland were it not for Braveheart? Would SeaWorld be heading towards bankruptcy if it weren’t for Blackfish? Will Cowspiracy turn me into a vegan like my friend swears it will? (Probably not).
A well made film can stimulate an imagination, inspire someone to change their lives and those of others around them and in the right circumstances inspire a revolution. Books can do the same too, but a single book can influence one person at a time. A film? That can reach 10, 20, 100 people at the same instant.
But when I talk about films that change the world, I bet your thinking of An Inconvenient Truth, Super Size Me, JFK or even Philadelphia
I guarantee you weren’t thinking of Back to the Future, Rambo, Pretty Woman or any other number of films that came out during the 80’s. But they may have helped to set the groundwork for the fall of Communism itself.
Let me set the scene.
27 years ago David Hasselhoff had not yet single handedly knocked down the Berlin Wall with the help of a talking car and the Cold War was still going strong. And one of the countries that was on the communist side of the Iron Curtain was Romania, a country of 20 million people and since it also includes Transylvania, probably a few vampires as well.
Between 19670-1989 Romania was under the rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu, a former cobbler with a mere 4 years of formal education and to begin with his rule was relatively liberal, but after visiting China and North Korea he decided to build a cult of personality and instigated a period of extreme repression. Foreign films were banned, extreme rationing was imposed and his secret police the Securitat, was one of the most ubiquitous and brutal secret police forces in the world.
But, much like with prohibition, banning films didn’t make people want to stop watching films.
And as such, an enterprising business man known as Teodor Zamfir spotted an opportunity. He would smuggle in films from the West, have them dubbed over, copied, and then sit back and make more money than he knew what to do with. To that end he recruited a woman called Irina Nistor who would come to his house, sit in his basement and over the course of several years would dub over 3000 films. And over that time, Zamfir would not just find his tapes watched by the general public but by members of the secret police, the army and the justice system but even by Ceaușescu’s own son!
And by watching these films, the people of Romania could see a world that they weren’t supposed to know about. They had no news of the outside world other than heavily edited propaganda on the radio and televisions that only worked for two hours a night.
But, through these tapes, mostly dubbed by a single woman, Romanians could see the world. The fashions of the West, passion, action, stores full of food, people driving sports cars and they began to demand change.
And this documentary, produced by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour 2, X-Men: The Last Stand, Tower Heist) of all people shines a light on this story. It uses recreations and interviews of people that lived in Romania at the time to tell an amazing, engrossing, thrilling and funny story. It shows that films have the power to inspire all of us. That we should never underestimate the power of stories. Even those told on low quality VHS tapes that were smuggled across the borders.
The film features interviews from people that live during those times (and generate a lot more laughs and heartfelt moments than you’d think) as well as dramatic recreations of events giving you a glimpse into a world so bleak it makes The Lives Of Others look like a heartwarming romantic comedy.
Chuck Norris Vs Communism shows people risking their freedoms and possibly even their lives for the ability to watch films. Something that these days anyone with an internet connection could do in in seconds. A right and a freedom so basic that I bet you’ve never even thought about it.
But this film shows us that one man, one woman, a few video recorders, a microphone and set of headphones can help to bring down even the most tyrannical of governments.
If you only see one documentary this year, see this one.
If you have any interest in learning how powerful film can be, see this film.
If you want to know that even in the darkest of times there can still be hope, watch this film.
In short? See It Now
Or do you want to disagree with Tom Hanks?